Asian lions by Edward Lear

by Ann Sylph on

On 21 May ZSL is presenting an exclusive gala evening, a safari experience inspired by sights and sounds of India, the refuge of the Asian lion. There is also an Abseil for Lions fundraising event on 12 July.

To celebrate, this month we are featuring two wonderful images of Asian lions by Edward Lear, although a noted zoological artist at that time, he is now better known for his `nonsense’ poems.

The first is an original painting of an Asian lion, circa 1835

Watercolour painting of an Asian lion by Edward Lear circa 1835
Asian lion painted by Edward Lear

The second is the printed plate based on the painting

Lithograph of an Asian lion by Edward Lear, 1835
Lithograph of an Asian lion by Edward Lear

This was published as Plate 24 Felis leo goojratensis in Volume 1 of the Transactions of the Zoological Society in 1835 to accompany the first published scientific description of an Asian lion, the article was titled Some account of the maneless Lion of Guzerat by Capt. Walter Smee of the Bombay Army, F.Z.S.

As you can see there are differences between the painting and the lithograph, the animal itself looks quite different and the background varies.

In his article  Smee states in rather flowery language `there exists a race in which the king of beasts is destitute of the flowing mane which constitutes the most remarkable of his regal adornments’.

The full paper by Captain Walter Smee is freely available online as a `hidden gem’ at


Many resources are available in ZSL Library and no appointment is necessary to use these, however we do ask visitors to make an appointment if you intend to use any of our `special collections.

If you are a ZSL member please bring your membership card when visiting ZSL Library. If you are not a member of ZSL  will need proof of address and photographic ID when you visit.

Use our online catalogue to find more detailed information about specific items in our holdings. It also contains links to relevant online resources:


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